Singapore's Koh Sock Hwee's top-notch preparation for battle at Serapong
She turned professional only two weeks ago, but sole local qualifier Koh Sock Hwee is already setting her sights on a best-ever finish at the HSBC Women's Champions, which tees off today at the Serapong Course.
Addressing the media at the Sentosa Golf Club yesterday, the 26-year-old said she feels like she "belongs out there", as she prepares to make her third appearance at the US$1.5 million ($2.1m) tournament. She propped up the standings both in 2012 and 2015.
"I'm definitely more prepared than last year, just coming into it feeling a lot more comfortable," she said.
"I went through Q-School last year… missed out on the third stage, but the whole journey has also made me learn a lot about myself as a person and as a golfer."
In her bid to become the first Singaporean to earn membership in the prestigious United States-based LPGA Tour, Koh competed in its initial round of qualifying school at the Mission Hills Country Club in California last August.
She will be part of a 63-strong star-studded field, which includes world No. 1 Lydia Ko and defending champion and world No. 2 Park Inbee. Previous winners Paula Creamer (2014), Stacy Lewis (2013) and Angela Stanford (2012) are also in the mix.
Despite the strong competition, Koh feels that being able to train on the "punishing" Serapong Course gives her a valuable advantage over the rest.
"I've been very lucky to be given access to practise here, and to train at the club," she said.
"I have benefited from it by being able to handle the course better; just knowing the course better than anyone else out here.
"The best tip I can actually give anybody is to plan your way around the golf course, to know where to miss and where not to be in. So that if ever you are off the green, you are in the best position to make par."
It has not, however, been all smooth sailing for Koh, who prior to turning pro had supported her golfing expenses by taking on part-time jobs and giving tuition.
But she painted a brighter picture yesterday, saying the financial side of things is "going well at the moment".
"Sentosa (Golf Club) actually did a fund-raiser for me. I'm talking to a few people, nothing is concrete yet," she said.
With no halfway cut this week, Koh is certain to bank a cheque, with the last-place finisher guaranteed just over US$3,000 in prize money.
"This being my second tournament, I haven't actually played a lot of events so I just really want to focus on this week at the moment, and deal with the other things in the future," she added.
The SEA Games individual bronze medallist finished joint-33rd in her first tournament as a pro last week, when she competed against some of the nation's best male golfers at the SPGA Edge Golf Classic, held at Laguna National.
"It's an entirely different golf course from here and I played it more as a warm-up," she said.
"I wanted to be in a competitive atmosphere. That will help me coming into this week… because (if not) it will be my first tournament as pro this week.
"I'm sure it just gets a lot of nerves out of the way."
Selected tee times
- 9.10am: Ryu So Yeon, Suzann Pettersen, Cristie Kerr
- 9.22am: Angela Stanford, Karrie Webb, Ai Miyazato
- 9.46am: Park Inbee, Paula Creamer, Stacy Lewis
- 9.58am: Lydia Ko, Feng Shanshan, Amy Yang
- 10.10am: Lexi Thompson, Haru Nomura, Jang Ha Na
- 8.46am: Pornanong Phatlum, Jane Park, Koh Sock Hwee